Photo of Hugh Robinson

Hugh Robinson

Affiliated to research

About me

Associate Professor, Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, UK.


Research description

Cancer Neuroscience

My lab carries out research in the emerging field of cancer neuroscience: how cancer cells use neural mechanisms, how they interact with the nervous system, and how cancer arises in, or metastasizes to the brain. We focus on how ion channels control membrane potential and intracellular calcium signalling in cancer cells. Cancers such as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours, small-cell lung cancer and some breast and prostate cancers show neural or neuroendocrine characteristics, including excitability and vesicular release of peptides and neurotransmitters. We want to understand how such signalling participates in the invasiveness and progression of these cancers. As well as these neuroendocrine-differentiated cancers, we are interested in how brain-metastatic cancer cells interact with neurons, and how neurotransmitter signalling at synapses promotes survival, invasion and growth of brain metastases, for example of breast cancer. We use a combination of patch-clamp and optical recording techniques, cell culture and computational modelling.

Selected Recent Publications

Zeberg H, Dannemann M, Sahlholm K, Tsuo K, Maricic T, Wiebe V, Hevers W, Robinson HPC, Kelso J, and Pääbo S (2020). A Neanderthal sodium channel increases pain sensitivity in present-day humans. Current Biology 30:3465–3469 (See also: “Neanderthal gene linked to pain sensitivity” News, Nature 583:665).

Zeng Q, Michael IP, Zhang P, Saghafinia S, Knott G, Jiao W, McCabe BD, Galván, JA, Robinson HPC, Zlobec I, Ciriello G, Hanahan D (2019) Synaptic proximity enables NMDAR signalling to promote brain metastasisNature 573:526–531. (See also News and Views: Barria A (2019) Dangerous liaisons as tumour cells form synapses with neurons. Nature 573:499–501).

Li, L., Zeng, Q., Bhutkar, A., Galván, J.A., Karamitopoulou, E., Noordermeer, D., Peng, M.-W., Piersigilli, A., Perren, A., Zlobec, I., Robinson, H., Iruela-Arispe M.L. and Hanahan, D. (2018). GKAP acts as a genetic modulator of NMDAR signaling to govern invasive tumor growth. Cancer Cell 33, 1–16.

Mendonça, P.R.F., Kyle, V., Yeo, S.-H., Colledge, W.H., and Robinson, H.P.C. (2018). Kv4.2 channel activity controls intrinsic firing dynamics of arcuate kisspeptin neurons: Kv4.2 potassium channels and firing irregularity in kisspeptin neuronsJ. Physiol. 596, 885–899.

Robinson, H.P.C., and Li, L. (2017). Autocrine, paracrine and necrotic NMDA receptor signalling in mouse pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour cellsOpen Biol. 7, 170221.

Scheppach, C., and Robinson, H.P.C. (2017). Fluctuation analysis in nonstationary conditions: single Ca2+ channel current in pyramidal neurons. Biophys. J. 113, 2383–2395.

Butler, J.L., Mendonca, P.R.F., Robinson, H.P.C., and Paulsen, O. (2016). Intrinsic Cornu Ammonis Area 1 theta-nested gamma oscillations induced by optogenetic theta frequency stimulation. J. Neurosci. 36, 4155–4169.

Mendonça, P.R., Vargas-Caballero, M., Erdélyi, F., Szabó, G., Paulsen, O., and Robinson, H.P. (2016). Stochastic and deterministic dynamics of intrinsically irregular firing in cortical inhibitory interneurons. Elife 5, e16475.